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I was wondering if there is a name for the kind of word spacing you can see in the first line:

enter image description here

It is obviously too close as the words seem to blend into one long word. What would you call this "mistake"?


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    Hi. Welcome to GDSE. There's no specific term as far as I know. You could instead just describe it. You could say the word spacing is "inadequate", "insufficient" or "too low", or "cramped".
    – Billy Kerr
    Feb 25, 2022 at 15:00
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    … which is often followed by the comment - "Looks like it was typeset in Microsoft Word." ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 25, 2022 at 15:13
  • "poor" word spacing is what I'd say Feb 25, 2022 at 17:09

2 Answers 2

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It's a mistake in tracking. Tracking is a way of increasing or dereasing the horizontal spacing between a range of letters or characters. It can apply to a single word, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. What exactly went wrong here I'm not sure.

Add'l edit - if you take a look at the last line, the words look cramped. The second and third sentence is looser. There's a possibility that these were typeset by hand (linotype/hot metal) and not digital. Might have been an effort to keep the lines justified left and right with no hyphenation of words. Check the copyright of the book/document this came from and that will give you a hint at type of setting used.

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  • It mighht not necessarily be a mistake. If it had been necessary to correct text on that page without changing the layout of adjoining pages, squishing the words there might have been seen as a "least of evils" approach.
    – supercat
    Sep 11, 2023 at 20:24
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There is no specific term for this as far as I know. You could say the word spacing is insufficient.

The general cause of such problems is when applying justification settings in graphics software. Here are some examples showing the issue in Adobe Illustrator, although other software is similar.

This first example doesn't have enough word spacing applied. It's fine on some lines, but the settings fail on others. Some lines have gaps that are just too large, others don't have enough of a gap.

enter image description here

A fix for this would be to increase the word spacing in the justification settings, and also perhaps allow some variation for the letter spacing so that you also don't end up with such large gaps between words.

enter image description here

The general idea here is to try to get a nice balance between word and letter spacing in order to control the gaps so that they are neither too large nor too small. The examples above are somewhat extreme. I exaggerated these so you can see the difference more clearly. Narrower columns also increase the likelihood of having such problems.

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